The Humanitarian Pilots Initiative (HPI), a Swiss foundation founded in 2015 by newly licensed general aviation pilots, made its EBACE debut as the all-volunteer organization seeks greater funding for its three projects: airborne patrolling of the Mediterranean to help migrants in distress; an airlift of vulnerable individuals from Ukraine’s borders; and development of a versatile and easily deployed airdrop system for humanitarian relief.
For its Mediterranean patrols, HPI first used ultralights while maintaining radio contact with NGO rescue operations for reporting migrant boats in distress. Thanks to donations, HPI was able to upgrade to a single-engine Cirrus SR22, and today, a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron B58, and has now accumulated more than 3,000 hours of patrol time, having spotted and helped rescue some 25,000 migrants.
Most of the 20-some volunteers participating today are professional airline pilots donating time for the worthy cause when off-duty, said HPI’s head of training and recruitment Olivier Wilmart, a retired B777 captain and former chief pilot for Air France. “Now, not only pilots are volunteering, but people like professional photographers with other competencies.”